Wednesday, August 30, 2006

On Gamecast

Should the rain permit the Yankees and Tigers to start today's doubleheader on time, the first pitch will be delivered right around the time I take lunch. Same for tomorrow's scheduled game. These games are quite burdensome to the baseball-obsessed working man, because it means that we have to follow the game through the dreaded Gamecast. You can take your pick of ESPN, CBS, FOX, or MLB, but it won't matter. They all share the same premises: follow the game in near-real-time, but find yourself grossly uninformed.

There are no spectacular plays on Gamecast. Melky made a diving catch to end the threat in the fourth, you say? Looked like a routine pop-up to me. Jeter really did beat that throw to first? Wish I could have seen that. Instead, I just saw some text scroll by that said, “Jeter grounds out to third.” And so the agony goes. You never really get a feel for the game while watching Gamecast; what you get is a ticker-tape of the game's events.

Thankfully, there have been advances in Gamecast technology over the past few years that have made the necessary experience a bit more bearable. Pitch location is the most notable improvement. And, on sites like CBS, they'll even give you the velocity and the pitch type, which further helps the viewer paint a mental picture of the game. Hell, I'm to the point of almost being able to write a recap from the Gamecast version of the game. With ESPN adding a graphic depicting the ball in flight, we have a more total understanding of what's happening on the field.

My question is: how can we further improve Gamecast to better cater to the working man? One of the few joys that breaks the drudgery of a 40+ hour work week is daytime baseball. We can forget our misery for just a few hours and think about nothing but baseball. In the days before Gamecast, our heads were filled with idle thoughts about the game. Can I get to my car and catch a score on the radio? I wonder if Mattingly hit another homer. But now with Gamecast, we can have some idea of what's happening to our beloved team. And as the years pass, we're getting a better and better idea of what's happening.

CBS has employed an individual to watch each game and write up an inning-by-inning Game Log (Glog). This is a nice idea, except it gets posted at the end of every inning. It's basically like a more quickly updated beat reporter, but not quite quick enough. The descriptions are often bland, as if you're reading the actual Gamecast, but you have to wait until the end of the inning to view it. If this is going to be a straightforward synopsis, why not employ that individual to type these descriptions real time? For example, instead of Gamecast saying, “Jeter grounds out to third,” and the Glog saying, “the replay showed that he was safe,” why don't we just include that description with the Gamecast?

Ball, strike looking, strike swinging, ball, Jeter grounds out to third
Strike swinging, ball, ball, strike looking, ball, foul, foul, foul, Abreu walks
Ball, ball, strike looking, ball, Giambi grounds into double play, shortstop Guillen to first baseman Casey

That's how an inning might look on Gamecast. And, thanks to the updated technology, I can see the location of the pitches Abreu fouled off. I can also judge, using my knowledge of Giambi's swing, whether he reached too far on that double play, or if he just missed a pitch in his zone. What I'm missing is what the inning looked like.

Ball, strike looking, strike swinging, ball, Jeter grounds out to third
From the replay, Jeter appeared to have beat that throw by a half step
Strike swinging, ball, ball, strike looking, ball, foul, foul, foul, Abreu walks
Ball, ball, strike looking, ball, Giambi grounds into double play, shortstop Guillen to first baseman Casey
Neifi Perez almost lost the ball in the exchange, but still had enough time to throw out Giambi

See? Little stuff like that would amplify the effectiveness of Gamecast tenfold. It would not only lead to a better understanding of games which we cannot see, but it makes the working man's day just a little easier. Because if you're stuck in front of a computer for most of the day, well, you probably need the mental break. For the sake of your own sanity and in the name of all that is baseball.

So in the future, when you sit down to watch the 2008 Yankees on Gamecast at work and you see vivid descriptions and accounts of the events on the field, you can think, “wow, it looks like that Joseph finally did something with his life.”

And I'll be sitting at my desk, watching the same advances in Gamecast, and think, “wow, somebody actually read that post.”